Severe Weather Preparedness Series Episode 1: Warning Polygons

When it comes to severe weather, the more knowledge you have about how watches and warnings work, the more prepared you will be for when severe weather strikes. 

By Hope Kleitsch

Watch boxes are issued by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) when severe weather looks imminent in a certain area. Typically, the watch boxes are for multiple counties and the whole county at that. Descriptions for the types of severe weather will be tagged on the watch box, along with an expiration time. 

Example of Tornado Watch boxes for multiple counties through many states

Warnings come in the form of polygons and these can be a bit harder to understand. There are many forms of warnings, but here, we will specifically talk about severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings. 

Warning polygons indicate where the severe threat is and where it is heading. Like the watch boxes, warning polygons will describe the threat within that box and when the warning will expire. 

Unlike watch boxes, warning polygons most of the time do not include the whole county. This often confuses people when their weather app alerts them, even though they are not technically in the warning. Many weather apps alert people when their county is mentioned and do not decipher whether or not the specific location is within the warning.

Example of Severe Thunderstorm Warning polygon including parts of multiple Indiana counties:

The scary and unfortunate truth of this is that people start to become desensitized to warnings. When their phone constantly goes off for severe thunderstorm or tornado warnings, yet nothing happens in their location, they start to ignore warnings. This shouldn’t be the case. All warnings should be taken seriously. That’s where Clarity comes into play. Our Clarity platform only goes off when your specific location is in that warning polygon, to ensure you take action when it is necessary!

Learn a little more about how these works with this video from Meteorologist and Chief Communications Officer, Bret Walts: 

Given how active severe weather season has been the past two years, it is critical to have a full understanding of severe weather threats, forecasts, alerts, etc. Check back next week for another critical tip to keep you prepared this season!